Future of KAI-Swidnik agreement in doubt as South Koreans focus more on Bell

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has stopped selling PZL-Swidnik W-3A Sokol helicopters pending the investigation into a crash in South Korea.

Industry sources say KAI and Swidnik have delayed renewing the licence agreement, which expired in April. Sources say that before deciding whether to continue the relationship, the companies want to resolve the cause of the January accident of a Sokol that KAI had sold to a local firefighting agency.

The aircraft, on a test flight piloted by a Korean and a Pole, crashed into a lake. Five members of the seven-man crew survived.

Daewoo Heavy Industries aerospace division began selling Sokols in 1996. The division merged with counterparts from Hyundai and Samsung to create KAI. But KAI/ Daewoo has sold only nine Sokols, including six to Daewoo, which uses them as executive shuttles.

The licence agreement included a provision for KAI to manufacture Sokols in South Korea. KAI has been looking to expand its helicopter product line, but elected against exercising this provision or extending its licensing arrangement with Swidnik to include other models such as the SW-4.

Industry sources say KAI believed there was not sufficient interest in Swidnik helicopters to expand the partnership. KAI was in charge of selling the Sokol in several Asian countries as well as Australia and South Africa.

KAI instead has focused more on its relationship with Bell, including the production of SB427s in South Korea. KAI also supplies parts for the Bell 212 and Bell 412.

KAI is also seeking roles in several planned Korean military helicopter procurements. KAI could potentially serve as the prime contractor for proposed indigenous projects and forge licensed production agreements with foreign manufacturers for other government procurements.

Source: Flight International